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Helping tackle ocean plastic

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Spreading the message: an international expert on plastic marine debris is coming to Bermuda to give a presentation on the growing impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean

An international expert on plastic marine debris is coming to Bermuda to give a presentation on the growing impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean.

Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas programme Nicholas Mallos will be giving his talk at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute tomorrow evening as well as speaking to students in local schools thanks to the support and partnership with 11th Hour Racing Foundation, Land Rover BAR.

He will discuss plastic from a global perspective, which he says, if mismanaged “becomes a crisis of immense proportions for our ocean.”

He will also talk about some of the solutions out there.

Mr Mallos oversees Ocean Conservancy’s work on marine debris including its global initiative on ocean plastics, its annual International Coastal Cleanup, and the Trash Free Seas Alliance. The TFSA is a co-operative of businesses, leading environmental organisations and scientists focused on reducing plastic inputs into the ocean by 50 per cent by 2025. Mr Mallos, whose presentation is being organised in conjunction with the 35th America’s Cup, told The Royal Gazette: “As an island nation with a rich and robust marine environment, Bermuda is a perfect location to discuss the environmental, economic and social impacts posed by plastics in our ocean.

“I will provide a global perspective on the pervasiveness of ocean plastic pollution and its impact on ocean health, connecting it to the food chain and its potential implications for human wellbeing.

“I’ll also offer ways we can work to reduce plastic pollution and specific actions we can take at the local, national and international level to protect our oceans and waterways from the impacts of plastics. Ocean Conservancy has been working with partners around the world for more than 30 years to keep trash out of the ocean by tackling the problem from inland lakes and waterways, to coastal beaches, and out to sea.”

Mr Mallos has extensive field experience researching ocean plastics — his debris-related assignments have taken him from the North Pacific Gyre to the remote coastlines of Alaska and the Philippines and the tsunami-stricken shores of Japan. He has testified before the United States Senate on the sources and impacts of plastic debris in the ocean, and regularly participates in international policy discussions at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation, United Nations Environment Programme and other global forums.

Speaking on the best solutions for cleaning up the oceans, he said there was “no silver bullet” and a holistic approach was needed at every stage of the ocean plastic pollution pipeline.

“In terms of technology, devices like the The Sea Bin or the Trash Wheel that intercept plastics and other forms of debris before they can enter coastal or open ocean environments are tremendously important. They alone will not solve the ocean plastics problem, but they’re critical in mitigating the threat as we devise and implement upstream solutions like improved waste collection, recycling and anti-littering campaigns, and encourage consumer goods companies and plastics producers to adopt principles of a circular economy.

“Businesses can lead by example and drive change from the top down. Eliminating single-use products like plastic (and paper) bags from stores, substituting foam plastic takeout containers for recyclable ones and only distributing straws upon request not only reduces plastics from potentially reaching the ocean but it also raises awareness and educates customers in the process.”

Education will be a key component of his visit and he will spread his message to the next generation through a number of school presentations.

“The younger generation is so critical for this issue. In many cases, students are far more conscious about how they’re living their lives and the decisions they make, and they’re very much aware of issues like ocean plastic pollution. Students rarely need to be informed about the problem, but rather they want to know what we do about it — they want to know the solution.

“In fact, this awareness and demand for change is what keeps me optimistic as our younger generation will be (and is) our next ocean champions on which ocean health depends.”

Rachael Miller, executive director of Rozalia Project and co-creator of the Cora Ball which captures micro fibres before they are flushed into the water, will also be giving a talk on the night. She will discuss a new form of pollution — microfibre pollution — and solutions to combating this global problem.

The talk takes place at BUEI tomorrow at 7.30pm. For more information, visit www.buei.bm

Nicolas Mallos during one of his expeditions looking into plastic pollution globally